Cajun-style stew

I like Cajun cooking and like Mexican food, I haven’t really eaten a lot of Cajun food in London. I like gumbo and étouffée and when I lived in Chicago, I used to go to Heaven on Seven. I used to enjoy watching the daytime television appearances of Paul Prudhomme who was hilarious and personable and introduced Cajun cooking to me. The other sharp memory I have of Cajun cooking is Justin “I guarantee” Wilson, who I watched on PBS when I was a kid (as a kid, I thought is TV kitchen set looked like the Keebler Elves’ tree hollow) I got a couple of his books – used – at the Newberry Book Fair (unfortunately, none made it in the move to London)

So I thought I’d try my hand at Cajun cooking. I imagined this recipe up – and please, I understand, this is not authentic Cajun cooking. I’m sure that I’m breaking many rules whilst making this, which is why I’m calling this dish a Cajun-style stew – style letting you know that I am aware of my non-Cajun-ness.

Anyways, below is the recipe – just a quick thing: in London, andouille is hard to find, so I had to replace it with kiełbasa – something that’s way easier to find in London, ‘cuz we got lotsa Polish people running around this city.

This recipe isn’t the kind of recipe you chisel on stone – I improvised a lot of it as I was shopping at Sainsburys (on a Saturday, no less – so there were many screaming children up in there)

Ingredients:

  • 400 g of smoked sausage – for an authentic version of Cajun cooking, you’d want to use andhouille, but given that this is London, I found smoked Polish sausage, instead – chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper – so Sainsburys was out of green bell pepper so this time I used yellow bell pepper -diced
  • I large yellow onion diced
  • 1 chili (green or red) diced
  • 1 rib of celery diced
  • 1 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • a bunch of flat-leafed parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 cup of fish broth
  • 200 g of cooked rice
  • ketchup to taste
  • hot sauce to taste – Tobasco is good, but I used Cholula hot sauce
  • Cajun seasoning to taste
  • 150 g of cooked cold water prawns
  • salt and pepper

So to assemble the dish, you first have to make a roux. Usually it’s made with flour and butter, but I’m trying to do something a little healthier, so I made the roux with oil and flour. It doesn’t cook the same way as you’d do it with butter (probably not as good), but it’s worth a try. Over a small flame, I dumped the oil and flour onto a heavy-bottomed pan, and stirred continuously, making a paste, working to get a nutty brown color. I kept a careful eye on the cooking so I won’t burn the shit. You can’t leave the pan, though, otherwise it can burn very quickly…Keep watch so you don’t destroy the roux (and set off your smoke detector)

Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, and chili and mix. Add some salt and some of the Cajun seasoning and stir. The roux will coat the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes, letting the vegetables sweat – you don’t have to let the vegetables brown. Add the fish broth and stir, scraping any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan (there shouldn’t be too much – it’s not a fond). Let the mixture simmer for a bit, before adding the chopped sausage.

Add the can of tomato and add some water – about half of the tomato tin and stir. Add some more Cajun seasoning and stir, raising the heat to high, and let it boil. Stir and let the stew thicken a bit. Add the parsley and green onion and let it boil for longer to let the stew thicken and to let the liquid cook away.

Once the stew gets thick, add the cooked rice, the hot sauce, and ketchup and keep stirring – it’s a lot of stirring, it’s not a dish from which you can walk away – you’ll want a very thick, reddish stew. It’ll smell great. The whole cooking process should take about 40 minutes, and at the last minute add the prawns, and remove from the heat, and stir a bit to heat the prawns through (you don’t want to cook them as they’ll get rubbery if you do)

Serve in bowls, hopefully you got some cornbread (we didn’t – this is London – the closest thing is corn muffins from Gail’s). Oh, and enjoy.

 

Bakes fusilli with roasted vegetables and sausage

Baking pasta is something I don’t do very often, but I’ve been making tray bakes a lot lately. Tray bakes are very popular in England and they’re great to make – it’s essentially a one-pot dinner: you throw everything on a baking tray, throw it into a hot oven, and you’re good to go. I’m able to wash dishes while I’m waiting for the food to cook.

This recipe isn’t a “proper” recipe in that it doesn’t really matter what you put it in. I made a winter veg stew the other day, so I had half a turnip and half a celeriac in my fridge that needed eating. I also had half a red onion from a curry I made earlier in the week and I discovered a courgette that was on the borderline of just going off, so I wanted to use that, as well.

This recipe is very easy to make – the ingredients I’m including aren’t obligatory. You put what you want to.

Ingredients (for serving two people):

  • 175 g of pasta – I used whole wheat fusilli
  • 1/2 courgette, chopped in large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 turnip, diced
  • 1/2 celaraic, diced
  • 3 links of fresh sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

So, the first thing I did was take the turnip and celaraic and tossed it with some olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I poured the root veg onto a baking tray in a single layer and put the tray into an oven, heated at 220 degrees.

While the root veg was baking, I prepared the rest of the vegetables. After 10 minutes, pull the tray out and and add the vegetables and the can of tomatoes, mix and spread on the tray as flat as possible.

I then took the sausage meat and broke it in tiny, bite-size pieces, and place on top of the veg.

Add the tray back into the oven and bake until the meat is cooked, another 15, 20 minutes.

While the tray was cooking, boil water for pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, but shave off about two minutes.

Once the sausage is cooked, carefully pull the tray out and set it on your counter. Add the parmesan and mix – the mixture might get a bit sticky and dray – I added a couple tablespoons of cooking water to loosen it a bit. Flatten the food again.

Once the pasta is done, remove from the heat and drain and add to the tray and mix until it’s all well combined. Place the Emmental cheese slices and bake until the cheese is melted, bubbled, and browned.

Once it’s done, remove from the oven and let it sit for a moment before you cut into it. Serve. Oh and enjoy.